next thing next
Do y’all remember being a kid–having a secret–and feeling like you’re about to burst? But knowing you probably shouldn’t–because you promised–or you want it to stay yours–but you are all jumping up and down–just wanting to share?
I’m like this a lot. A ton. Every day.
I blame my mother. Every single day of the life I lived with her, at the end of that day, I would come home and share all my secrets with her. Well, mostly, there was that…um…fiance I hid from her…except she knew her daughter and totally figured out something was amiss…and the minute I knew she suspected something–it all came tumbling out.
I’m not sure why I kept him from her. Why I didn’t share that I was absolutely in love with this amazing guy I never thought I’d find. That my camping trips were actually spent with him and his brother in their condo. I don’t know why I thought I could hide how much that love healed my heart. But of course, she noticed. And of course, I spilled–like the small child I so often am.
And of course, she loved him just as much as I did. When we fell apart, he still came to visit her in the hospital, and she never quite understood what went wrong. Of course, then, neither did I. I wish we could have fixed it–if only so she could have left the Earth without thinking I knew the heartbreak she’d lived with for so much of my life.
I was a very secretive person back then. Stoic. Private. Selective about what I shared and who I shared it with. Mostly, I just shared with him. But then, she died, and my heart blew open–and suddenly–it was impossible to keep my heart out of my mouth.
But I’ve learned that you really shouldn’t be as open as I was in the months after my mother died. I am grateful for it, in a way, but that kind of vulnerability builds a quick intimacy with all kinds of people–some good and some bad. And when you lack an ability to make a clear boundary–well, you open yourself to lots of heartache.
Basically, as open and vulnerable as I am–usually–I’ve learned how to protect my heart. So, I share very strategically. Maybe especially here.
Though I have been known to vomit my life out when triggered, as I did when I started writing at age 10.
I’m a pretty brave person once I’m sure about something. I remember the moment I decided that this poor little girl from Westwood was going to college. I had been told repeatedly by adults that my lack of financial wealth would doom me to a life of welfare and barefoot pregnancy. But somehow, after an assembly, I just decided I would find a way to pay for college myself. I would be so good that no one could deny me.
And I was. For four years, I was so good (and so exhausted) that I somehow made it to a private Jesuit college where the semester’s tuition was more than my Mama made in a year. I somehow made it work–working three jobs if I had to.
To sum up so much of my life–there is nothing I can’t do once I’ve decided I’m going to do it. But staying decided has always been my problem. And the biggest factor in changing my mind has almost always been money. Money and me are not friends. It’s in my DNA to hate money–and probably can be traced back to my Scottish and Irish relatives–along with my love of cliffs and ocean.
Money has limited me in every part of my life–but most especially? It’s limited my ability to realize my dreams and chase my passions. But–for some crazy reason–I’ve never let it stop me from being educated. I’ve always found a way. Still–when it comes to pursuing “risky” work or moving half-way across the country–money had always followed with its convincing punch of impossibility.
Part of the reason I moved out to Silicon Valley–arguably one of the most expensive places to live in this country–was to confront that part of myself that has always limited my dreams and tried to make them practical.
It’s odd because–in most ways–I play big. I go for the goddamn doctorate. I work for 400% goal, even though I’m on one of the toughest accounts. I go for the guys who are seemingly unattainable because they’re oblivious, too good looking, or commitment challenged. I truly live my life according to the initials in my name–to the intention my father sought out for me at birth. I aim for the highest heights and make it happen. Sometimes, by luck–sometimes, by hard work–sometimes, by just letting my light shine and knowing I’m the most fascinating woman in the room. In those moments, I am unstoppable. In those moments, I know my worth. In those moments, I am alive.
But sometimes, the journey to get there leaves pretty massive scars. Often, I’ve learned, what I think I want–what seems like such a great idea–is the thing of massive scrapes that leave scar tissue that’s impenetrable.
I tend to peel off scabs. Impatiently thinking my body and mind should just get on with it because I say so.
I haven’t really written about what happened on the move out here. Except in very broad, un-Alma-like terms–purposefully avoiding vulnerability. Mostly because I’m still healing it. And I have this rule for what I share here now. If it’s something that still feels like a gaping wound, I let it heal before I let strangers look at it. While it would be healing to write about–because writing is a therapy for me–it would also be inappropriately vulnerable and part of an unhealthy pattern I’ve developed. I may never share all of it here. I haven’t shared most of it even with my therapist or even my good friends. But let’s just say moving here was a trauma that will take years to really get over. And when I got here, I was plummeted straight into a self-worth storm. I was physically and emotionally–spiritually–in a war of sorts…with my own body and my own mind. I was so physically ill that it required multiple prescriptions and months to fully heal. I was literally covered in hives that were red and blotchy. I couldn’t breathe. For months. Literally. It was one of the most bizarre periods of my life. And I just held on–trying to get through it–while grappling with a debilitating feeling of being permanently displaced from my anchors in life. While trying to act normal for work and being thrown into the fire–busier than ever. I had no idea who I was here. And I hated everything about here.
Well, except the tacos. And thank God I found them early.
I did what I do when I’m in crisis. When shame and trauma are about to eat me alive. I put my head down. I holed up. I stuffed down the pain and the fear and the declarations of–“I’m fucking going home.” And I just kept going–holding on to every small piece of self-care I could throw at myself when things calmed down.
In a strange way–I think it was some kind of healing crisis.
In hippie circles–for instance–if you’re doing a cleanse (which I’ve done so many times)–there’s this period when you’re giving your body a rest after months of self-abuse–and your body just starts working better. It does what it’s supposed to do. It’s more efficient and, because of that, well–you feel like utter shit. I know a lot of you science types (hey–I’m one of you, swear)–will say this is absolute garbage…but it’s actually quite true. It’s like–giving your body space to just be what it was intended to be–to release yourself from all the type A bullshit of this world–from all the congestion of living–causes this massive energy shift. In the beginning, you are dead tired after doing nothing. Like standing is a feat. Your face breaks out. You’re mad itchy. You feel like you have the flu. My hair fell out more. (Same shit happened to me after my gall bladder surgery. Some of it was absolutely from trauma and anesthesia getting the eff out of my body. But a big part of it was slowing down, eating better, and actually breathing). You go through this for a really long time–at least it feels like that. During a cleanse, it’s the first three days or so. During my recovery from surgery, it was three months of my body trying to find its way again. (Though my hair kept falling out and still does when I’m malnourished–which is very often). During that time, it’s so easy to quit. And I’ve done it. Multiple times. Because the pay off was not worth this amount of BS. But then, you just sort of start leaning into yourself, and your mind starts trusting your body and gets out of the way. Suddenly, all those thoughts that cause you all that discomfort go out the window. You observe them and acknowledge them–but they cause you no pain. And your brain changes somehow. And suddenly, your body feels like yours again.
In a strange way–that’s kind of what happened to me when the hives and the pneumonia finally went the fuck away.
And oddly, those things started healing as soon as I chose self-care. When I started hanging out by the fountain more and walking in the leaves. When I took photos. When I did weekly spa days for myself. Suddenly, my body stopped tormenting me. And the horrible feelings I had about my worth softened.
But let’s just say–I don’t like it here. Well, I like it in the moments when I’m in it–experiencing it–exploring. But living here–day to day? It’s painful, even though my mind is in a good place now. Being on the other side of the shitstorm, in the place of self-awareness–knowing what I need–I can see how much the past few months have been about my childhood and about surviving trauma in all the ways I learned when I was six. I felt it breaking down over the holidays, when I was finally alone, and able to settle into my body. It gave me the clarity I needed to seek help and make as many changes as I could. It allowed me to choose me.
What I’ve uncovered is a shit ton of rage and feelings of being fed up. Boundaries have become my Bible, and I am not allowing toxic people to continue fouling up my air. At the same time, I still feel like I’m in a personal crisis. I never realized how deeply linked home is for me for healing the traumas in my life, but the last few months have really showed me that. And I’ve become acutely aware of how I focus on other people instead of taking care of myself while also distancing myself acutely when I’m in these situations. It’s an odd form of self-abuse. So, my goal over the next year or so is to get back into my body. Seek out things that I don’t have to endure so much as exist in. Things like going to the ocean. Or taking photos. Or finding a Buddhist community I can join. Things like making my home feel like mine. Things that don’t involve numbing out or dark rooms.
Lately, though I know I need to do these things–my big push back is financial. Everything out here is expensive. I still don’t have a car, so to go anywhere–really–I have to rent a zip car and then drive–which is terrifying to me because I’m so unfamiliar. I’ve done more exploration of my immediate neighborhood and have found lots of cool art that’s really inspiring to me and a whole culture I’m not so familiar with–even though it’s Asian. It’s the one kind of Asian we didn’t have much of in my neck of Denver. I’ve been on a mission to find good sandwiches out here (they don’t exist–really), and I’ve tried to come up with my own rituals on the weekends. Tacos and pampering every Saturday along with murder shows. 🙂
I feel like I’m on a better path–because I’m not hating everything all the time at least–and I am sorta stuck here for a while.
The big news, though–the stuff that has me jumping up and down while being scared shitless–is that I’ve made some steps toward something I thought was absolutely impossible–and right now–my good friend money is the only thing really getting in my way…well, along with some commitment stuff and sick kitty things. Oh, and the logistics of making my work–well–work in such a situation. And things like mail.
So, during my therapy session the other day–I caught up my former therapist…now life coach/unofficial therapist…on life now. I gave her a high overview since I only had an hour booked. I was telling her about my decision to MFA, and I must’ve been feeling insecure about it–because oh how impractical and expensive–and well, I had to justify it, as I do, right?
I told her I felt like it was actually a very self-loving thing…that it was finally something for me. That all these other things were really for others, in an odd way. It was a way to be obedient and follow the practical path–even when I was unsure of the damn path. Even teaching was that, for me. A way to make who I was respectable. And worthy. And I guess, after my worth storm this year–I’m just fucking done with that. I’m writing, fuckers. The whole election thing really punched that into my gut. That writing is the biggest form of civil disobedience there is–short of being arrested–and that when the world is hell-bent on erasing our humanity–it is the job of the writer to illuminate it. I’ve never felt comfortable in church. But, for me, writing is my prayer. So, I can’t just sit and watch all this bullshit happen. At the same time, I need to heal all this shit. In me. And for whatever reason, learning is how I keep myself honest. And being part of a community of writers is where I think I’ll find real connection. I guess the thing I’ve missed most about my ex boyfriends has been that easy back and forth about writing…and how we inspired each other so much. That’s one perk of loving creative men, I guess.
Anyway, I was talking about that and how my living situation is feeling icky to me still and how I need to fix that. And she asked a pretty innocent question–do you want to leave? If money wasn’t stopping you–would you leave?
And then I rambled on about how I’d looked at all these places for where to go–when I was in the most painful throes of get me the fuck out of here–and I couldn’t decide. Nothing felt right, but everything felt better than here. But all of it was unrealistic because I couldn’t just move because I’m still paying for things and my job is not silicon valley pay. I’m in this weird place of feeling like I belong absolutely nowhere.
So, then, I just started rambling on about how I had this big idea once about getting in a VW bus and going from place to place–working on a documentary or a play or some kind of creative project telling the stories of normal people. I’ve had various versions of this dream live with me for years and years and years. My parents did something akin to this, except they were not writers. They were just essentially choosing homelessness…a Kerouac lifestyle, I suppose. It was my father’s thing and Mama just joined in. In their little crappy car that eventually rolled and burned up, nearly killing them in the California desert–landing them in the paper and catapulting a stay on John Wayne’s ranch, somehow. The story is truly epic. And I’ve sort of always wanted to see all those places and somehow chase the stories my parents told me of their life before me. But mostly, I just want to tell stories of people who maybe never have had someone to come home to–to spill their secrets to.
And, well, God–how healing would that be. To basically live the life my parents lived and do it on my own terms and go to all the places I want to go–and finally decide where to settle based on what feels like home.
But holy cow–so goddamn impractical. I could never do that, right? I mean…I have a location independent job, so all I’d need would be internet and a phone. But I need an address, right? And what about the cats? And where would I sleep? And I can’t drive a big thing, right? And those things are like buying a house. I can’t change a tire by myself. Who am I kidding?
And yet–when I started talking about it–my therapist said my entire being just lit up. Until I started thinking and limiting myself and listening to my inner naysayer.
So, that–friends–is what might be next. But I am legit terrified. And I really don’t know if I can actually afford this. Let’s face it–I’m no DIYer. I want turnkey solutions. The whole camper/RV thing is rather large and the idea of driving it scares me shitless. But that would likely be what I’d need to make it work for my three cats. And what the fuck would I do with all my stuff? And where would I even start?
Still, there’s this Airstream that feels like a dream. Those windows and a big bed. Parked next to a river. I mean…it would be worth driving a big honking something, right? And I kinda feel like this is the appropriate response to a bullshit presidency. Opt the fuck out of real life and all the constraints we say we have to live with. I would still work, of course, and pay taxes. And try to have a mailbox. Somewhere. Um…
So, yea…I have no idea and all this thinking and 3 am research on RVs might be totally for nothing if I can’t get financing or whatever. And who knows–maybe all my engaging with San Jose will make me love it here (haha)…but I’m at least looking at the possibilities. Mostly because it terrifies me. And mostly because it lit me up.
I need to be lit up more. I haven’t felt lit up, truly, in a long damn time.